Narrating the history of Karnataka in just 150 pages is no mean task but C V Shivashankar manages to give information about a long period of 2000 years during which many illustrious kings and emperors have ruled this land. History of Karnataka which has been translated from Kannada to English by H S M Prakash, sums up the grand, rich legacy of a land that was ruled by various local dynasties as well as rulers from other states.
The author has also described the various events and historical facts in the form of a play where the kings, queens and commanders talk about their rule and times. Many anecdotes, tales and important happenings have been described by the historical figures as they talk.
This is followed by a Kannada teacher who imparts knowledge about many dynasties, cultures, kingdoms, contributions, customs, etc to his students in an erudite manner.
The teacher narrates the history of Karnataka after visiting various historical places including ancient temples, palaces, forts, tombs, stone inscriptions, etc Loaded with historical data, stories of battles, coronations, attacks on different provinces and the sprawl of empires, the book takes you on a journey that is so concise and short that you can read the book in a short span of time.
The author has painstakingly collated information right from the Stone Age, about which archeological excavations in Bellary, Nyamathi and Kaduru, have revealed much.
After gleaning facts from Neolithic cultural remains in Chandravalli, Anekal, Masti, Bijapur and other places, the narrative finally culminates at the point where the reorganisation of states took place along linguistic lines, post Independence.
The author traces the states's story from the Maurayas of the Gupta empire and their rule over the Kannada land for about four centuries and the latter part of the third century.
Describing the Kalinga War and the greed of Emperor Ashoka for a bigger empire, the author writes how Ashoka was yearning to desert his capital and spend a few months among the Buddhist monks and repent for his sinful acts.
“Shaken by the Kalinga War, Ashoka took up Buddhism and spread the message of Buddha all over his empire and historians say how he had sent monk Mahadeva to Mahisha Mandala which is today’s Mysuru and to Banvasi province."
After the Mauryas, came the Shatvavahanas who followed the Chanakyan code and made the Kannada state a strong and vibrant entity. Further, Shivashankar traces the history of other strong rulers like the Kadambas of Banvasi who ruled for 150 years from 4-6th century AD and gave importance to the development of language, culture, literature and religion. The Gangas of Talakad too ruled for 200 years in the southern parts and became subordinate rulers of Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas in the later years.
“Ganga kings safeguarded the grandeur of cultural and religious heritage of Kannada land for generations, from father to son to grandson. In 974 AD, Chavundaraya, an intelligent minister of Rajamalla IV of the Ganga dynasty and a staunch follower of Jainism, was responsible for installation of the world famous monolithic statue of Lord Bahubali at Sravanbelagola,” the author writes.
The rule of the Chalukyas of Badami right from Jayasimha-1 to Immadi Pulikeshi to Vishnuvardhana to Vikramaditya and their contribution in the construction of Shaiva, Vaishnava, Jain and Buddhist temples has been mentioned. As also the Rashtrkutas who spread their rule across the sub continent under King Dhruva.
Nrupathunga’s role and special work in art, culture and literature has been outlined, as well.
The author further describes the rule of Kalyana Chalukyas in the north.
He describes the Yadavas of Devagiri, the Hoysalas, the great and golden rule of the Vijaynagar empire, the rule of the Muslim Kings including Bahmanis, the Adil Shahis and the Keladi Nayaks, as well.
We also learn about the Mysore Kings, the Yelahanka Prabhus, Madakari Nayaka, Kittur Rani Chennamma and Sangolli Rayanna who fought the British. Many other rulers of small principalities, feudal lords and chieftains have been outlined in this book. If you do not have the time to read elaborate historical works, this can serve as an enjoyable crash course.